Overrated or underrated, perception of retired Dallas quarterback Tony Romo depends on the criteria. To simplify, limit the standards to Super Bowls, statistics, and shekels.
First, a bit of background. Undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo was offered $20,000 to sign with Denver but took half that to ink with Dallas, telling Denver coach Mike Shanahan that he thought he had a much better chance of making the Cowboys.
Bill Parcells, Dallas coach at the time, has said he was impressed Romo’s decision was not based on money, but on analysis of the opportunity. That said, Romo took over at quarterback deep in his third season with the Cowboys.
Any time the argument is restricted to Super Bowl rings, the Manning family and Tom Brady come to mind.
Measuring the Manning clan begins with father Archie, who might have been better than sons Peyton or Eli. Ask former Arkansas linemen Bruce James and Dick Bumpas about chasing Manning around Tulane Stadium in the Jan. 1, 1970 Sugar Bowl. Manning ran or threw on 48 of 71 plays, including an 18-yard scoring run on fourth-and-1, in Mississippi’s 27-22 victory over the then-No. 3 Razorbacks.
Yes, that was a college game and the subject is NFL quarterbacks, but James and Bumpas cannot exaggerate the Manning magic witnessed in person.
Drafted second by New Orleans, Manning’s pro career was so-so because his supporting cast was inept. Never in his 10 years with the Saints — the days when fans wore grocery sacks on their heads with eyeholes in the bags and “Aints” scrawled on the brown background — did they win more than eight. In one five-year span, they won 13.
His son Eli won two Super Bowls with the Giants before Peyton won his second with Denver early in 2016, but there is no way that the younger brother was superior during the four years when he had more championship rings.
And, the recent Denver victory reaffirms the importance of a good supporting cast. The Broncos sacked Cam Newton seven times and defensive end Derek Wolfe said it should have been 10. Manning’s contribution was 13-of-23 for only 141 yards and, yet, that victory elevated him in the eyes of some.
By the same token, many consider Brady in a class by himself because he has won five Super Bowls. He is skilled and a leader, but the Patriots don’t beat Seattle unless the Seahawks decide to throw from the New England 1 and they probably don’t defeat Atlanta unless the Falcons’ offensive coordinator calls pass plays that remove Atlanta from field goal range.
Snobs about the Super Bowl measuring stick eliminate Romo since he never participated.
Comparing stats, Romo is first in Dallas history in all sorts of categories, including total passing yards, total completions, completion percentage, fourth quarter comebacks, winning drives, etc.
The simple explanation is that the passing game has evolved and has supplanted the running game as the focal point of NFL offenses.
In seven of the eight years that he started 15 or more games, Romo averaged at least 32 passes per game. Troy Aikman averaged less than 27 attempts per game in eight of his years with Dallas and Roger Staubach averaged more than 28 attempts per game only in his final year with the Cowboys. That 1979 season was also the only year two-time Super Bowl winner Staubach threw for more than 3,190 yards. Three-time Super Bowl champion Aikman never bettered 3,445, but Romo topped 3,700 yards a half-dozen times.
Call their numbers a push.
As for salary, Romo is among the elite. Signed in 2013, his six-year contract included $55 million guaranteed. Retired, he’ll get by on almost $900,000 a month this year and about $750,000 per month next year, plus whatever pocket change he earns as the No. 1 color commentator on CBS.
All in all, Romo was an above average quarterback. No more, no less.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: email@example.com